When potential clients contact us, one of the first questions asked is usually some variant of “How much does a website cost?” This is a good question, but before we can answer it, we need to ask a few questions of our own. Similar to buying a car or a home, it all depends on what sorts of features you are looking for. As we look to develop our proposal and pricing, here are five things we’ll need to know before we can get started:
- Who is your target audience?
Knowing and understanding your business or organization’s target audience is the number one factor that separates successful websites from those that miss the mark. A clear understanding of how your audience learns and makes decisions will provide a framework which will impact every part of the website design process.
- What action do you want your viewers to take?
Once someone in your target audience has landed on your website, having a clear idea of what you want them to actually do is critical. Do you just want them to read and learn more information? We can do that… let’s make sure the navigation is crystal clear and the text very easy to read. Do you want them to make a donation to your non-profit? No problem… let’s make sure we have more than one prominent link to your donations page. Do you want them to make a purchase from your web store? Let’s make sure to show some sample products prominently on the home page, and maybe offer a coupon code while we’re at it.
- What does your website need to DO?
It’s a given that your website will communicate information, using photography, text, and maybe video. That’s easy. The big question as we enter into a new website project is to figure out what the website actually needs to do. Do you need contact forms? How many? Are you selling anything and do you need to collect payments on the website? Who is your payment provider? Do we need to interact with a database in any way? Do we need animations and movement? Do we need to integrate the website with your mailing list software?
There are so many possibilities! Having a clear understanding of the function your website will need will allow us to provide an accurate estimate.
- How many pages will the site have?
Creating a site map is something that needs to be completed at the very beginning of any website development project. We’ve seen site maps that are created as intricate Excel spreadsheets and site maps that are sketched on the back of a napkin. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, the important thing is to start thinking through the information you want your website to communicate and determining the best number of pages with which to do this. Of course, the number of pages will have an impact on the overall cost of the project (we’ve built 1 page websites and 100 page websites), but the bigger question to ask is “what is the right number of pages to include to communicate everything we need to communicate to our target audiences?”)
- When is your deadline?
If you have never been a part of a website development project, you may not have any context for how long the process takes. Is it two weeks, two months, or two years? Like most things, the answer to that question is: “It depends.” There are many factors that can speed up or slow down a website development project. The complexity of the design and the number of pages are always a factor, but time for communication, review, creating draft designs, testing, and launching the site need to be included as well. One thing that can greatly speed up your project is to begin gathering all of your organization’s digital collateral as soon as possible. This includes all logos, style guides, photography, fonts, old print pieces, stationery, and anything else that may be relevant and helpful for us to see as we get started on your new site design.